Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Greetings from Weardale.

The still, hot weather here continues. The up side of all this is that the roads in the quarry have all dried out and the vehicles have not had a fresh mud coating in several days. Without any real breeze for several days, the visibility is approaching that of a good day in Los Angeles, except the air here lacks that peculiar gray-brown color common to our Southern California metropolis. This morning we have a bit more cloud out, but still not a hint of a breeze.

Joan flew back home on Sunday, and from first reports, had a good trip, which included a last minute upgrade to business class. Edible food, a glass of wine, and a seat large enough that you are not smashing your knees into the one in front of you for nine hours helps the soothe ordeal immensely. My trip down south was mercifully brief, given the prevailing temperature and humidity. I had originally planned on staying over with a friend, but it seems that dates got mixed up and he was away on a family holiday. This resulted in a long day of driving, mercifully uneventful, and luckily on a Sunday, given what London area traffic can be during the week. Upon returning north, however, I found the road into Weardale from the motorway completely closed off, with a police helicopter parked in the middle. This necessitated an impromptu tour of the back country near Bishop Auckland, but I finally managed to find my way into the dale. Met up with Byron at the Grey Bull in Stanhope, where we were promptly accosted by a somewhat inebriated, but very friendly Kiwi merchant sailor. Seems he was in the military during the Vietnam war era, and spent time hanging out with the Americans, so he and Byron had a good story-swapping session.

Yesterday was Dave's first day on with us, and with the skill that comes from 25 years in the local mines, had our mess in the West Cross Cut cleaned up in short order. Byron came to the conclusion that the ignition switch he got from Watson's was not only used, but non-functional as well. After a bit of asking around, we located an auto electric supplier up the road in Crook, who had something similar looking. After a bit of fiddling, the diesel motor rumbled to life. Upon inspecting Byron's repair job, I noticed a couple unattached wire leads. Byron tells me that the new ignition switch had one fewer terminals that the old one, and he can't figure out what the extra wires are for. I hope nothing important, but I guess we'll find out. At least the unit fires up now.

My day was somewhat less productive. In the past, we have gotten our local permits in association with Lindsay and Mick's operation, Cumbria Mining and Mineral. This meant that, while we are located in County Durham, we were dealing with the Cumbria Constabulary. With Mick's passing last year, Lindsay has folded the company. In anticipation of any problems this may cause us, I telephoned our usual contact at the Cumbria Constabulary prior to our arrival here, and was told there should be no problem renewing our permits, but that she would be away on holiday until July 3. I called her yesterday morning to get the process started, only to be told that she now thinks we should be dealing with the Durham Constabulary. She gave me the name and number of the appropriate person, but when I called I was told that he will be away on holiday for the next two weeks, and his assistant was unable to help us. After a few calls back and forth, our Cumbrian contact agreed to try and sort it out with the Durham office, but I have not heard back. More phone calls this morning are in the offing.

The compressor is scheduled to be delivered this morning, so Byron is away early to meet the driver at the quarry gate. With the compressor, Dave can now start drilling in anticipation of being able to drive some new tunnel. Byron is now free to wield his chainsaw with reckless abandon, so will no doubt be slicing and dicing the large rocks we have recovered from the West Cross Cut. Today's photo is of Byron fussing with the hydraulic unit prior to its resurrection.

More soon,


"If I could just figure out where to hit this thing, maybe it would start."

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